More about Tania from the Internet
Tania grew up in Smorgonie, a Polish town where Jews constituted more
than half of the population. Her father was a successful businessman
who sold farming equipment and purchased flax for export. Her
grandfather, an affluent merchant, traveled frequently and brought the
first truck to Smorgonie. The Marcuses took part in the town's vibrant
Jewish culture, attended the theater, and hosted discussions about art
in their home.
Holocaust Survivor Recalls Ordeal
Rudi Williams, American Forces Press Service
April 13, 2001
WASHINGTON -- "With the Nazis, you couldn't be courageous enough,
strong enough, rich enough or smart enough to survive the Holocaust.
It was just a matter of luck," Tania Marcus Rozmaryn told her audience
The 72-year-old Polish immigrant participated recently in the U.S.
Holocaust Memorial Museum's "First Person" program, which features
personal accounts by Holocaust survivors.
When the Germans invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, triggering World War
II, Rozmaryn said, she and her family were living in the Polish town
of Smorgonie. She had just finished the fourth grade.
Sixteen days later, the Soviets occupied Smorgonie and implemented
communist policies, seizing businesses, assets and valuables. They
converted the Jewish school into a Soviet school and taught classes in
Russian. On June 22, 1941, the German army invaded the Soviet Union
and occupied Smorgonie the same day.
Rozmaryn and her mother, sister and brother fled eastward to Lebedev,
but they were captured by the Germans. She would learn later that her
father had been executed by an SS mobile killing squad.
Forced into the Smorgonie ghetto, the Marcuses were transported to the
Kovno ghetto two years later. Rozmaryn said in March 1944 the Nazis
shot more than 1,000 young children at Kovno, including her
nine-year-old brother, Nathan.
"I can't figure out why I was so lucky to survive," Rozmaryn told the
audience. "I guess because I should be able to bear witness and to
tell what happened so it should never, ever, ever happen to anyone
else in the future."
She said she'll never forget the day the Nazis dragged children down
the stairs into the street and bayoneted them to death. This was one
of her last memories of the ghettos, fenced-off areas where Jews were
She remembers being herded onto a barge and being held there 10 days
in the burning sun with only pieces of bread and water to eat. When
they reached Stutthof, Germany, they were loaded onto freight trains
and taken to the concentration camp there. The camp was outfitted with
a gas chamber and crematory for the killing of Jews, gypsies and
captured resistance fighters from Holland, Belgium and France.
"When they opened the doors, the first thing was the smell of burned
flesh and burned bones," Rozmaryn said. "That's when we realized that
we were at a concentration camp and a crematorium."
About 500 prisoners were taken to a large hall and stripped of their
possessions. The men and women were separated. "People were kissing
and hugging and saying goodbye, because we knew this was our last
journey. This was the end," Rozmaryn said.
It was the end for thousands of prisoners, but not the Marcus women.
Rozmaryn, her mother and sister survived some of the most inhumane
treatment and conditions and the war. Her mother died only about three
years ago at age 95. Her sister lives in Israel.
She said one day at the camp, the Germans took 5,000 people to a labor
camp to dig huge ditches that were camouflaged to trap Russian tanks.
But the prisoners had to first survive going through a gate where the
head of the camp was standing.
"If he didn't like someone, he'd shoot them or send the dogs to rip
the person to pieces," she said. "They put the bodies on a pile to be
taken to the crematorium in a horse- drawn cart."
As she, her mother and sister approached the gate, the German grabbed
her and threw her on the pile of old people and children.
"It's beyond comprehension or any explanation, but I felt like an
angel took me by my hand," she recalled. "I got up from the pile and
walked over to the head of the concentration camp. He looked down at
me and I told him I'm just a little girl, but I'm very strong and I
work hard. I told him, 'There is my mother and sister over there.'
"All of a sudden, I saw a flicker in his eyes, and he grabbed me by
the neck, pushed me through the gate, yelling in German, 'OK, little
girl, run to your mother,'" she said. "When I went on the other side
of the gate, my mother and sister literally saw me come back from the
The prisoners dug ditches until they were taken on a final death march
on Jan. 18, 1945. "They told those of us who were still alive that we
were leaving. Many people had frozen to death, many died of typhoid
and diphtheria or were killed," Rozmaryn said.
They marched all day in below-zero weather with snow and ice on the
road. Those who couldn't keep up were shot; others died from disease
or froze to death.
"Both sides of the road was covered with bodies or blood," she said.
"At night they put us in an empty high school or in barns, and gave us
a piece of bread. We huddled up with the cows to keep warm. We were so
hungry. Everybody was looking through trashcans for food when we
marched through a village.
"One day, my mother found a marrow bone and gave it to my sister to
suck on because she was the weakest," she said.
Finally reaching another concentration camp, they were turned away
because the camp was full. They were taken to a small airport, where
more than 1,000 people were already being held.
Rozmaryn contracted typhus and lost consciousness. She screamed when
she woke up in a bed with sheets, pillows and a nice room with
curtains. Her mother and sister told her the crisis was over. "My
mother said, 'We're liberated! The Russians liberated us!'" Rozmaryn
That was on March 23, 1945.
Rozmaryn said every day in the ghetto and concentration camp was a bad
day. For her, the two worst of the war were the days she found out the
Nazis had killed her father and her nine-year-old brother, she said
later during an interview.
The aim of the Germans was to humiliate, degrade -- mentally,
emotionally, intellectually, she said. The Nazis knew that if they
could degrade people in those ways, they could do whatever they wanted
with them, Rozmaryn said.
After the war, she became a Hebrew teacher in several Jewish displaced
persons camps in Germany. She emigrated to the United States on Oct.
20, 1950, aboard an Army ship. By then, she was married and had an
"I didn't speak English and didn't have a penny to my name," Rozmaryn
said. "And we didn't have a place to stay." The family found help and
a place to live in Brooklyn. "I worked in a sweatshop sewing patches
on jackets for $35 a week."
She went to night school to learn English. Rozmaryn decided she wanted
to be a teacher, and though she'd only completed the fourth grade
before the war, she persuaded the dean of the Teachers Institute for
Women at Yeshivah University of Greater New York to give her a chance.
After three years at Yeshivah, she graduated summa cum laude. Eight
years later, the university presented her its teacher of the year
"I'm still teaching," said Rozmaryn, who holds a master's degree in
counselor of education and another in marriage and family counselor.
She teaches at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville,
Rozmaryn educated her two children and grandchildren in the Jewish
legacy and modern orthodox way. By doing so, she said, she denied
"He wanted the final solution to be the annihilation of the Jewish
culture and the Jewish people," she noted. "I can't give Hitler his
victory over the Jews posthumously.
"I consider myself extremely lucky to be one of the Holocaust
survivors," Rozmaryn said. "I'm extremely grateful to the United
States government for inviting me to immigrate to this wonderful
country and being afforded all the opportunities for me and my